Sharks ready for historic London final

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The Sharks want to become the first South African rugby franchise to win a European Cup final. They face Gloucester at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Friday.

The two sides will tackle one another for the first time in the final of the Challenge Cup, a tournament Gloucester have won twice.

The Sharks are relying on their numerous Springboks to guide the team in how to prepare for a big final.

Ahead of the Challenge Cup final, the Sharks are leaning on their experienced leaders, many of whom prepared for a World Cup final just seven months ago.

Ox Nche is one of those seasoned players, and right now his job is to get the Sharks squad to stay focused on the job at hand and not the sense of occasion.

“We try, especially in terms of keeping players calm and focused on what they do, and not the event itself. Our biggest task at the moment is to make sure that everyone knows that they shouldn’t get bombarded by the fact that it is such a big stage to actually be playing on,” said Nche.

The Sharks believes winning a European Cup final could act as the catalyst for the franchise to realise its potential.

Sharks Director of Rugby, Neil Powell, knows the team has underperformed in the URC, but they have a chance to kickstart their story on Friday night.

“It is pretty much about Friday night and we want to be successful there and hopefully, it can be a starting point for what is to come. In the future, we want to be one of the top teams in the URC and we want to be one of the top teams in the Europe Champions Cup,” said Powell.

The Sharks will be without Springboks Jaden Hendrickse and Lukhanyo Am, both injured.

Powell says it is a huge blow and he is now expecting up-and-coming flyhalf, Siya Masuku, to lead from the front.

“He has proven himself already and we just want him to take charge, be the general of the team, make good decisions in attack and also lead the team in defense. So, I think he is a good player and, all we expect of him is to be Siya Masuku out there on Friday night,” says Powell.

Playing an English club in England puts the Sharks on the back foot, but with so many Springboks in the tight five, Nche can’t see the Sharks being on the back foot for long if they play as a team.

“You don’t just win a scrum alone, but you win a scrum together and I think the most important thing is understanding the guys around you and making sure that we are all making plans to make the scrum better and dominate the guys in front of us,” adds Nche.

The two teams have never played one another, but much like the Sharks, Gloucester, while underperforming in their own league, got their act together for a decent cup run.